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Algae-based carbon capture startup Brilliant Planet raises $12 million

Apr 6, 2022
Illustration of algae forming the shape of a dollar sign.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Brilliant Planet, a London-based startup that's using algae for carbon capture and sequestration, closed a $12 million Series A, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Brilliant Planet says its "nature-based approach" offers a cost-effective means of capturing greenhouse gas emissions from the ambient air.

Details: Union Square Ventures and Toyota Ventures led the Series A.

  • Future Positive Capital, AiiM Partners, S2G Ventures, Hatch and Pegasus Tech Ventures also participated.
  • The funding round will support the engineering design of a 74-acre commercial demonstration facility in the Sahara desert in Morocco, Brilliant Planet says.
  • The company currently operates a 7.4-acre trial facility in the region.

How it works: Brilliant Planet captures carbon by taking seawater — already nutrient- and carbon-rich — then seeding it with local algae, growing the algae, harvesting it, drying it, then burying it.

  • "It’s very high-science but low-tech," CEO Adam Taylor tells Axios. "We spent a lot of time stripping out the operational complexity, finding ways to automate things in the desert."
  • By sequestering the algae in coastal deserts, Brilliant Planet says it is avoiding the kinds of biodiversity and food-scarcity conflicts that other efforts focused on cultivating forests have encountered.

By the numbers: Brilliant Planet's approach, if successfully commercialized, will support a carbon price just over $100/ton, Axios has learned.

  • Permits in the European Union's carbon market have been selling for roughly the same amount.

Of note: Brilliant Planet was previously known as Susewi, which explored algae's potential in food applications.

  • Susewi held three seed rounds from 2017-2019, totaling $9.5 million, a Brilliant Planet spokesperson says.

What's next: Brilliant Planet is planning a Series B in the second half of 2023, Union Square Ventures tells Axios.

  • Construction of the commercial demonstration plant is set to begin mid-2023.
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